Non-profit organizations support New Yorkers in countless ways—providing essential health and human services, education and youth development opportunities, and resources to combat poverty and strengthen communities, among others. Too often, though, valuable services are underutilized, or clients and community members fail to complete the steps needed to achieve desired results. This can be puzzling to staff, who work hard to help as many people as possible.
We know there is often a gap between people’s intentions and actions—perhaps they intend to use a non-profit’s program or service but don’t follow through, don’t realize they are eligible for certain benefits, or have misconceptions about what’s possible or expected in a particular context. Applying a behavioral lens can help agencies address these issues, and in doing so make good programs even more effective—enabling them to help more people.
That’s why we created the NYC Behavioral Design Center with support from The New York Community Trust and the Booth Ferris Foundation. Through educational workshops, technical assistance, and cooperative design projects, the Center helps non-profits based in New York City identify and ameliorate behavioral barriers that emerge in service delivery, with a particular focus on alleviating poverty and enhancing civic engagement. Center staff guides practitioners and program managers in applying insights and techniques from behavioral science to increase the utilization of their services and improve outcomes for the people they serve.
Our recent and current project partnerships include:
- Accion East–The project will focus on understanding and mitigating behavioral barriers limiting the number of loan applications Accion receives from family childcare providers in NYC.
- Arab American Family Support Center —We will help identify barriers to effective data collection at AAFSC, and behaviorally informed changes to incorporate in revising AAFSC’s data management system and practices, with a focus on client intake and needs assessment.
- Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation —Our work will focus on identifying behavioral barriers that may prevent tenants who live in affordable and mixed income housing from participating in an on- time rent payment credit-building initiative and other asset-building programs, and strategies to increase engagement.
- Sheltering Arms —The project will focus on identifying behavioral barriers impeding Preventive Service referrals to the agency’s Health Home Care Management program, and strategies to encourage referrals and facilitate the referral process, in order to increase the number of clients enrolled in this valuable children’s healthcare coordination service.
- Northern Manhattan Improvement Corporation (NMIC)—We prepared a series of communications from NMIC to its education and training program participants, and additional program redesign recommendations, to increase client outcome reporting and utilization of NMIC’s follow-up services. View project brief.
- NYC Kids RISE—We created a revised design for their savings program’s online interface and process to improve the user experience for families participating in the NYC Kids RISE Save for College Program. View project brief.
- CUNY Early Childhood Professional Development Institute (PDI)—We revised introductory correspondence with participants in PDI’s training and test preparation program, which provides training and support to early childhood teachers seeking Pre-K certification. We also outlined points and features to include in other communications and promotional material to enhance program recruitment and retention. View project brief.
- Room to Grow—We designed a flyer for the opening of their new Bronx location and offered recommendations on how to communicate with referring agencies to increase referrals and applications to the program. View project brief.
- Queens Community House—We redesigned a weekly progress report email and advisory session worksheet for students at a transfer high school, and offering other suggestions leveraging behaviorally informed strategies to improve graduation rates. View project brief.
- Participatory Budgeting Project—We’re working to identify ways to address behavioral barriers that contribute to drop-off in engagement among volunteer Participatory Budgeting Delegates. This work is expected to inform recommendations regarding citywide implementation of Participatory Budgeting, as well as enhancing delegate involvement in individual Council districts.
- LIFT-NY—We will focus on identifying and addressing the behavioral barriers that keep some potential members from accessing LIFT’s supports and services. LIFT provides personalized life skills coaching to help parents of young children achieve their long-term financial, educational, and/or career goals, ensuring a brighter future for their family as a whole.
- DOROT— Through its volunteer visiting programs, DOROT promotes inter-generational connections and combats social isolation among older adults. We’ll be helping them design an intervention to encourage volunteers to expand their involvement.
We’re accepting more requests for assistance from non-profits interested in applying behavioral insights to existing or new programs: you can find more information here.
The Behavioral Design Center also offers weekly office hours to New York City non-profits interested in getting 1:1 applied behavioral science advice. Sign up for an office hour here.
We’re eager to work with organizations to apply a behavioral lens to program and service design. Through the Behavioral Design Center, we hope to spread these behavioral insights farther and help more New Yorkers benefit from beneficial programs.
Interested in learning more about the NYC Behavioral Design Center? Sign up for our listserv to stay informed about upcoming workshops and other initiatives, or reach out to us at email@example.com or tweet at @ideas42 to join the conversation.